Remove Heavy Metals from your Body

By Dr. Sanjay Mohan Ram, B.Sc.(Hon.), N.D.

What is Chelation? 

Chelation therapy is used in conventional and alternative medicine for the purpose of removing heavy metals and chemicals from the body.

It involves intravenous injections of a chelating agent, EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid), a synthetic amino acid. EDTA binds to heavy metals and minerals in the blood so that they can be excreted in the urine. Another common intravenous agent used by physicians for mercury detoxification is called DMPS (2,3-Dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid).

There is an oral chelating agent called DMSA (Dimercaptosuccinic acid), which is used for lead poisoning and is used by some physicians to remove mercury from the body. The drug combines with metals in the bloodstream and both the metals and the drug are removed from the body via the kidneys. There are common side effects with oral administration of DMSA, and these include diarrhea, loose stools, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite and skin rash.

So, the question now is – why would someone have heavy metals building up in their body in the first place? It might sound as if it occurs only in rare circumstances of accidental poisoning, but heavy metals are more common than you think. If you have or had mercury fillings (or amalgam fillings) in your teeth, have been vaccinated to prevent various diseases, eat farm-raised fish regularly, consume foods that are grown in foreign countries that are not certified organic, or are healing from radiation and chemotherapy treatments, you are likely to have some form of heavy metal toxicity.

EDTA is administered into the body intravenously so it can bind with the heavy metals directly. Once bound to these heavy metals or chemicals in the body, EDTA essentially helps detox the body of heavy metals by permanently removing them, thereby helping with imbalances and illnesses which have developed in the body over time due to the heavy metals.

First developed and used in the 1950s for the treatment of heavy metal poisoning, chelation therapy using EDTA is now performed to remove common heavy metals, including lead, mercury, copper, iron, arsenic, aluminum and cadmium. While still a controversial practice in mainstream medicine and one that requires more research for us to fully understand how it works, studies show that chelation therapy has potential for reducing the risk of heightened inflammation, heart disease, strokes, infections and other health problems.

EDTA can also reduce the amount of calcium in the bloodstream, as calcium is found within the plaque that can line diseased blood vessels. As such, there are medical studies which show chelation can be used to treat atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries, by reopening arteries clogged with plaque. Consequently, chelation can be an effective and less expensive adjunct to coronary artery bypass surgery, angioplasty, and other conventional medical treatments.

The popularity of chelation therapy has grown since and more health care professionals are being trained in this practice.

How does Chelation work? 

EDTA and DMPS are man-made synthetic amino acids. EDTA chelation therapy works by binding to heavy metals in the blood once administered intravenously. After EDTA attaches and binds irreversibly to heavy metals, the complex is excreted by the kidneys, where they are eliminated from the body through urine.

Moreover, chelating agents, like EDTA, DMSA and DMPS can help detoxify the body of toxic elements which are complexed with heavy metals, contributing to many types of chronic diseases. Chelating agents can form irreversible bonds between these toxic molecules and metals. This gives the chelating agents the ability to bind to metals that build up in the blood, solid organs and blood vessels.

There are other chelating agents, including peptides such as glutathione and metallothionein, that have been well-researched and proven to transport and excrete toxins from the body, all without the need for expensive surgeries and risky medications.

The biggest benefit of chelation therapy is regulating the levels of various environmental metals which can enter the body. Metals, including lead, mercury, aluminium and arsenic, can cause short- and long-term health consequences since they influence functions of the central nervous, cardiovascular, immune and skeletal systems. The CDC reported that the severity and health outcomes of toxic heavy metal exposure depend on several factors, including the type and form of the element, route of exposure (oral/inhalation/topical/ocular), duration of exposure (acute vs. chronic), and a person’s individual susceptibility. When the body is out of balance due to disparities in the levels of beneficial minerals, each vital organ or tissue can malfunction and be damaged.

Some of the most symptoms of heavy metal toxicity include:
• Mood imbalances, including depression and anxiety
• Autoimmune diseases
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Muscle and joint pain
• Neurological disorders and intellectual decline
• Trouble learning and remembering new information, which patients refer to as “Brain fog” and trouble concentrating

Where would you be exposed to heavy metals? 

There are many places or opportunities to be exposed to heavy metals – they are ubiquitous in the environment. Humans risk overexposure from environmental concentrations that occur naturally (eg, arsenic-rich mineral deposits) or human activities (eg, lead or mercury release as a result of industrial pollution).

Acute toxicities of heavy metals come from sudden exposures to substantial quantities of some metals (such as from occupational exposure to aluminum dust or breaking a mercury-containing thermometer) and typically affect multiple organ systems, commonly the gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, nervous system, endocrine system, kidneys, hair, and nails. Acute exposures to some metals, e.g. mercury, gold, nickel, and others, can also cause hypersensitivity or allergic reactions.

Chronic toxicities are expressed as conditions that develop over extended periods from chronic exposure to relatively low concentrations (eg, sustained environmental exposure). Symptoms of chronic heavy metal toxicity can be similar to other health conditions and may not be immediately recognized as intoxications. Increased cancer risk is a common feature of chronic exposure to certain metals; the exact mechanism of their carcinogenicity is not completely understood, although many are heavy metals can be mutagens or cause DNA damage, can disrupt gene expression, and deregulate cell growth and development. They can also interfere with innate DNA repair systems. In addition, certain metals may affect gene expression and alter gene function.

Here is a short list of other potential sources of common heavy metals: 

  • Lead:
    • Lead-containing plumbing
    • Lead-based paints (in buildings built before 1978 and is the predominant source for children)
    • Foods grown in lead-rich soil
  • Mercury:
    • Eating fish or shellfish contaminated with methylmercury (includes shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish, bass, walleye, pickerel)
    • Breathing contaminated workplace air or skin contact during use in the workplace
    • Release of mercury vapor from dental amalgam fillings
  • Cadmium
    • Tobacco smoke
    • Eating foods containing cadmium (levels are highest in grains, legumes, and leafy vegetables, fish and shellfish)
    • Contact with cadmium from household products (electric batteries and solar panels)

It is not possible to completely avoid exposure to toxic metals – they are everywhere. Even people who are not occupationally exposed retain certain metals in their body as a result of exposure from other sources, such as food, beverages, or air. Hence, it is possible to reduce metal toxicity risk through chelation therapy together with lifestyle choices that diminish the probability of harmful heavy metal uptake, such as dietary measures that may promote the safe metabolism or excretion of ingested heavy metals.

Bio-Identical Hormones

By Dr. Sanjay Mohan, B.Sc.(Hon.), N.D.

What are Bioidentical hormones?

Bioidentical Hormones are hormones which have the exact same molecular structure as the hormones which you naturally produce in the body. These hormones are powerful chemical messengers, but they are made with natural ingredients and are prescribed by Naturopathic Physicians. Basically, Natural Hormone therapy replaces the human hormones, e.g. bioidentical estrogen and progesterone, which decline as the ovaries and testicles stop making them as people age. They are available as routine prescriptions through a compounding pharmacist, whom receive more advanced training after graduation. There are many different dosages, types and combinations of bioidentical hormones. As such, a Naturopathic Physician will go through a comprehensive individual medical assessment, test you for the levels of your hormones and based on the test results, will be able to customize a treatment plan of specific bioidentical hormone or hormones for you.

How can Bioidentical Hormones help?

There are many benefits to using Bioidentical Hormones, namely:

  • Helping improve mood by alleviating depression, anxiety or mood swings
  • Helping decrease the risk of osteoporosis while increasing bone density
  • Helping improve cardiovascular health and prevent heart disease
  • Helping the body get into proper sleep/wake cycles or circadian rhythms
  • Helping decrease wrinkles by increasing the deposition of collagen and elastin in the skin
  • Helping improve the immune system fight off infections or repair damaged tissues
  • Helping with weight loss by increasing healthy muscle mass
  • Helping with hair loss and dry skin
  • Helping improve memory and mental acuity

Why are bioidentical hormones controversial?

As men and women enter their 40’s and 50’s, the bodies’ production of hormones estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and other hormones which help maintain youthful vitality, decreases. The individual effects of menopause and andropause vary widely as the bodies no longer produce the sex hormones at sufficient levels to optimally maintain physiological processes. Depression, irritability, declining memory are common symptoms as humans age. For menopausal patients, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and weight gain are all common

There are health problems which can adversely affect a man or woman for the rest of their life in the absence of apt levels of hormones. Patients are often told by other health care professionals to limit the use of hormone drugs, only long enough to obtain relief from their symptoms and nothing more. However, this information does not take into account the different between bioidentical hormones and synthetic hormones.

Conventional hormone replacement therapy, called HRT, uses synthetic hormones which are produced in a laboratory and patented by pharmaceutical companies. For example, Premarin, a common HRT, is an estrogen derived from pregnant horse urine; Provera is a synthetic progesterone that is commonly used. Premarin contains 9 molecules unrecognizable by the human body, including a hormone called equilinin, which is known to be dangerous. For many decades, the drugs were marketed to female patients by the drug companies, but neither patients nor their prescribing physicians fully understood the risks and benefits associated with synthetic hormones. In comparison, Premarin and Provera are NOT the same as bioidentical estrogen and progesterone.

In the summer of 2002, there was a key setback in thinking among health care professionals following the release of information from the Women’s Health Institute (WHI) and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The WHI was a 15-year national health study involving 161,000 women, ages 50 to 79 in the United States. The study explored the risks and benefits of synthetic estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women.

The arm of the study using Premarin and Provera was discontinued early when an increased risk of breast cancer was detected in study participants. The arm of the study using Premarin was discontinued because of an increased incidence of strokes and blood clots in older women. Following the release of these results in 2002, female patients and physicians became apprehensive about HRT as they deemed it no longer safe to take Premarin and Provera.

As you can see, for female and male patients, there are genuine concerns by physicians that synthetic hormone drugs have been shown to increase the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. There is a push by the medical community to avoid the prolonged use of synthetic hormones. However, the predicament is aging patients may still benefit from youthful hormone levels. There is increasing evidence that bioidentical hormones can actually help protect the body against the conditions caused by synthetic hormones, which are foreign to the human body.

There are research findings indicating that men and women may safely benefit from personalized or individualized dosages of bioidentical hormones over their lifetime. Additionally, lifestyle changes, such as avoiding food sensitivities, assuring optimal vitamin D status and nutrient blood counts, may prevent and even reverse the damage to various cells in the body.

When should I begin bioidentical hormones?

Hormones starts decreasing once a person enters their 30’s. As such, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can commence anywhere from ages 35 to 55 after the appropriate tests have been completed.

What hormones are important to be tested when you visit a Naturopathic Physician?

There are many hormones tested by a Naturopathic Physician during a routine screening.

They include:

Cortisol

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland and plays an important role in helping the body deal with stress. It should be higher in the morning and lower at night; it helps you wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night. It contributes to your circadian rhythm. When cortisol levels are low, it is termed “adrenal fatigue”. If cortisol levels are high, it contributes to anxiety and insomnia.

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)

DHEA is a precursor to some of the sex hormones, and is important for the formation of these hormones. It is produced by the adrenal glands and decreases as we age. Low levels of DHEA can lead to premature aging and increased incidence of chronic disease. As such, it is considered the “anti-aging” hormone. When DHEA is stimulated to be produced in the body, the immune system is stimulated and the patient feels an overall sense of wellbeing.

Estrogen

Estrogen is secreted by the ovaries and adrenal glands. When estrogen levels are low, women experience menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings and insomnia. When you replace low levels of estrogen with natural estrogen, there is a protective effect against heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis among other conditions.

Growth Hormone

Human growth hormone, produced by the pituitary gland in the brain, is important in all cells for growth, reproduction and tissue repair. Studies show that stimulating the production of growth hormone can work as an anti-aging agent, and can help decrease body fat while increasing muscle mass.

Melatonin

Melatonin helps with sleep. It is produced by the pineal gland, and is important in regulating the circadian rhythm. Melatonin levels naturally decline as we age, and melatonin has been studied to help improve sleep but also works as a strong antioxidant in particular cancer treatments.

Prenenalone

Pregnenalone declines after the age of 30, but is a precursor to many other hormones in the body. It plays a role in improving cognition, learning, mood and memory, as well as stimulating deep sleep and the immune system.

Progesterone

Progesterone is secreted by the ovaries and adrenal glands. Studies show that natural progesterone reduces the symptoms of menopause and has a protective effect against certain breast and endometrial cancers. It is a natural antidepressant and promotes bone building while protecting against osteoporosis

Testosterone

Testosterone is produced by the testes in men and adrenal glands both men and women. It is best known as a male hormone to help with virility, fertility and body building, but it also is present in female patients and plays a role in women’s health and well being. Testosterone production naturally declines after the age of 30

Thyroid Hormone

Thyroid hormone production also declines with age. Low thyroid hormone levels can cause fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, constipation, cold hands and feet, as well as dry skin and brittle nails.

Regardless of which hormones are deficient in your body, a Naturopathic Physician, with the aid of the appropriate hormone tests, can help determine which hormones you need, and in what doses.

Dietary Approaches to Balancing Your Hormones

By Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld

1. Include Healthy Fats

Fat and cholesterol provide the precursors to our sex hormones. Ensuring you get enough healthy fats in your diet is critical to hormone balance. Healthy fats help to decrease inflammation in the body, help to maintain a healthy body weight and

Healthy Fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, fish, nuts and seeds

How to do it:

  • Include 2tbsp of ground flax seed in your diet each day – you can sprinkle it on top of oatmeal, or in a smoothie. Flax seeds provide a good source of anti-inflammatory fats, aid with digestion and also help to balance estrogen levels in the body.
  • Cook with coconut oil – it has a high melting point and provides a good source of medium chain triglycerides – important for brain health and development as well as weight loss.
  • Drizzle olive oil over roasted vegetables and salads.
  • Try to consume fish 2-3 times per week. Smaller fish will accumulate less mercury, for example: anchovies, butterfish, catfish, clam, crab (domestic), crawfish/crayfish, croaker (Atlantic), flounder, haddock (Atlantic), herring, mackerel, oyster, perch (ocean), salmon (fresh, canned), sardines, scallop, shrimp, sole (Pacific), squid (Calamari), tilapia, trout (freshwater), whitefish
  • Use nuts and seeds as a snack. Chia seeds can be made into a pudding and eaten as a nice breakfast, or snack. Homemade trail mix with a mixture of walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts and cashews are a good mid-day snack to be eaten in moderation.

 

2.  Increase your Veg!

Eat all the colours of the rainbow to ensure you are getting the phytonutrients your body needs. Aim for 1 cup of each colour every day: blue, red, green, yellow/orange and white.

The cruciferous vegetables are especially beneficial for helping with estrogen balance and detoxification. These include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, and chinese cabbage. Arugula, horse radish, radish, wasabi, and watercress are also cruciferous vegetables.

Eating more colourful vegetables also helps to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can increase estrogen dominance in the body, and disrupt hormonal balance. Veggies also pack a hefty punch of dietary fiber, which helps maintain regularity, and also ensures that excess estrogens are being excreted.

How to do it:

  • Make ½ your plate veggies – lightly steaming or cooking your vegetables makes them more digestible.
  • If you enjoy a morning smoothie, fill up your blender with a mixture of vegetables: leafy greens, avocado, celery, beets and more.
  • When you make pasta sauces or stir fries, make the bulk of the sauce from vegetables, with some additional protein and fats.

3. Pack on the Protein

Proteins form the building blocks of our cells, and are important for creating hormones, maintaining a healthy immune system, achieving an ideal body composition and much more. Proteins (especially when combined with healthy fats and fiber) help to balance our blood sugar levels, which can be extremely important for reproductive health and ovulation.

How to do it:

  • Choose organic meat when possible to decrease the amount of exogenous hormones in our food.  Ensure a palm-sized amount of protein at all your meals.
  • Choose smaller fish (listed above), which contain fewer heavy metals and toxins.
  • When selecting red meat, opt for grass fed meat. The cuts from grass fed animals are less inflammatory and contain more healthy fats than traditional grain fed meats. These animals also generally come from more humane farms.
  • Choose free-run organic eggs to ensure you are getting the highest quality eggs from chickens that are not confined to small cages.
  • Vegetarian sources of protein are also a great choice, and high in additional fiber. Lentils, beans, peas and quinoa are some great options. If you find you have difficulty digesting beans or lentils, you can try soaking them overnight before eating to break down some of the hard to digest fibers. Rinsing quinoa thoroughly just before cooking will also help make it more digestible.

Foods to Avoid/Minimize:

1. Dairy

In addition to being a common allergen, dairy foods tend to upset our hormonal balance. Dairy has been associated with increased hormonal acne, more PMS and menstrual cramps and increased inflammation in the body.

2. Added Sugar

Sugar is the most inflammatory substance we can consume. It disrupts our blood sugar balance and contributes to systemic inflammation. This can wreak havoc on your menstrual cycle, mood, energy levels and immune system. Sugars are addictive, unfortunately. The more we have, the more we want. So keep your sweets to a minimum, and enjoy fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet cravings.

3. Caffeine

Caffeine can place an extra burden on the liver’s detoxification process and interfere with Caffeine should be limited to no more than 200mg in pregnancy – this is the equivalent of a “short” drip coffee from Starbucks. Better yet, switch to decaffeinated coffee or green tea, or herbal teas to help with energy levels, mood and hormone balance.

4. Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks can pack on the pounds and disturb your sleep, contributing to hormonal imbalance. Alcohol also places additional stress on the liver, making it work harder to process and break down hormones. Keep alcoholic drinks to 1/day for women, and none during pregnancy.

5. Processed Foods

Processed foods are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, leading to blood sugar imbalances, digestive disturbances and weight gain. Processed foods are often high in sodium, contributing to high blood pressure and water retention.

Healing Anxiety – An Integrative Approach

By: Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld ND

 

1 in 4 Canadians will suffer from some form of anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Feeling anxiety, or fear, is a normal part of our physiology but it becomes a problem when anxiety interferes with relationships, the ability to go to work or school, and other aspects of daily life.

 

Symptoms of Anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety are diverse, and can sometimes be difficult to recognize. Mental symptoms include excessive worry, insomnia, recurrent thoughts, nervousness and a sense of doom. There are also a myriad of physical symptoms – changes in body temperature, changes in digestion, frequent urination, muscle tension, rapid heart rate, chest pain, excessive sweating and more.

 

Conventional Approach

First line pharmaceutical treatment for anxiety can involve medications to increase levels of “feel-good” neurotransmitters in the body, such as serotonin, or medications that increase the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA, to help “chill out”. These can work for some individuals, but medications alone don’t provide a holistic treatment plan. The side effects of weight gain, insomnia or excessive sleepiness and decreased sexual function are often limiting factors in their use.

Naturopathic Approach

Naturopathic Doctors don’t look at mental health as a condition occurring solely in the brain, that doesn’t affect, or have an effect, on the rest of the body. Anyone who has had anxiety before a big test and felt butterflies in their stomach, or felt their heart race, can tell you that anxiety manifests throughout the body.  Below are just some of the ways Naturopathic Doctors can help address your anxiety.

 

Cause: Stress

Stress is a natural response to a perceived threat. During times of stress our body activates the “fight or flight” division of the nervous system. This increases adrenaline and cortisol in the body: creating many of the symptoms listed above – increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased breathing rate, muscle tension and mental worry. It’s easy to see how elevated levels of stress can cause, or contribute, to anxiety.

Solution: Increase the amount of time you spend in the “rest and digest” division of the nervous system. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation and low key exercise all help to decrease high levels of cortisol in the body.

 

Cause: Hypoglycemia

You haven’t eaten anything for a long time, and you have been surviving on coffee for most of the day to reach a deadline. Panic sets in, along with irritability and maybe you even start feeling lightheaded. Irregular eating habits, combined with coffee, and surviving on office baked goods can set the stage for erratic blood sugar levels and major aggravations of anxiety.

Solution: You may not have a huge appetite if you aren’t feeling great, but try to consume some nutrient dense foods throughout the day, even if it’s just a few bites every hour. Having proteins and healthy fats, and avoiding processed carbohydrates will help keep your mood and energy levels stable.  Good examples include a protein smoothie, hearty soups or stews, homemade trail mix, veggies with hummus and boiled egg with veggies.

 

Cause: Lack of Sleep

Not getting enough quality sleep can be a trigger for any number of mental health conditions. Feelings of anxiety can also keep you wide awake at night, creating a vicious anxiety/insomnia cycle.

Solution: Create a calming bedtime ritual – journaling, meditation, yoga poses and baths, are just a few examples of ways we can turn on our parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system. Dim the lights in your house around 9pm to help signal melatonin production and avoid screens for 1 hour before bed to keep melatonin levels elevated

 

Cause: Nutrient Deficiencies

Many vitamins and mineral are important in the formation and function of neurotransmitters and are depleted by medications, stress and poor diet. These include all of the B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, iron and probiotics. The neurotransmitters are made of amino acids, derived from proteins, so adequate protein levels in the body are important for formation of serotonin, dopamine, GABA and all of the other neurotransmitters. Up to 90% of our serotonin is made in the digestive tract, so you can see how diet is so important in mental well-being.

Solution: Testing nutrient levels is important and often times correcting nutrient deficiencies can have a huge effect on mood. Your ND will sit down with you and make sure your nutrition provides all the correct nutrients, and that your digestion is working optimally to absorb nutrients from food.

 

Cause: Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones are the body’s messengers and will communicate to all cells of the body. The thyroid hormone, which is responsible for our metabolism can also have a huge effect on our mood – levels that are too low can contribute to depression and lethargy, while elevated levels of thyroid hormones can increase anxiety.

For women, it is important to have a balance of estrogen to progesterone. Due to medications, environmental toxins and food choices it is common to see a relative excess of estrogen and deficiency of progesterone. Progesterone is our calming hormone, so it makes sense that low levels would lead to more anxiety and irritability.

Solution: Based on your symptoms and lab tests recommended by your ND to assess your hormone levels, you can address these imbalances to achieve optimal mental and physical wellbeing.

 

Cause: Cognitive Distortions

The way we view a situation can greatly increase anxiety. These mental patterns and habits are established early in life, and create ways of thinking that are not always helpful. These patterns can be a result of trauma, or conditioning early in life.

Solution: Learning to identify behavioural and thought patterns through techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be a way to help change well-established mental schemas. A counsellor or therapist can help establish more positive ways of handling situations and relationships to decrease anxiety.

Eat This, Not That

By Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld ND, RHN

Nobody likes feeling deprived, especially when it comes to food.

Restricting your diet has been shown to actually increase your cravings and the chances of overeating.
Instead of  completely removing all your favourite foods, try swapping them instead for more natural options. You’ll likely end up loving the substitutions!

Use coconut oil or olive oil, not “vegetable” oils 
Vegetable oils like canola oil, safflower oil and soybean oil are polyunsaturated fats and high in omega 6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation. Inflammation is linked to almost all chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, obesity and dementia.
Instead, opt for anti-inflammatory and heart healthy olive oil on salads and vegetables. Make sure you choose cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil to get the highest quality fats and nutrients out of your oil.
If you are cooking at high heat use coconut oil or grapeseed oil. Coconut oil has many health benefits inclduding boosting your immune system, helping your brain function optimally and assisting with weight management.

Eat butter, not margarine 
At one time it was thought that saturated fat was the cause of all heart conditions, so scientists created spreadable oil that was supposed to be healthier and taste somewhat ok. Turns out that during the manufacturing of margarine, a lot of trans fats (the worst kind of fats) were created. Trans fats promote inflammation, slow your metabolism, raise your bad cholesterol, lower your good cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and obesity.
If you are having butter, choose grass fed butter (if you can find it) that has more anti-inflammatory fats than traditional butter.

Eat steel cut oats, not cold cereals and granola 
Cereals and granola contain a lot of sugar. It might be disguised as “coconut sugar” or “organic cane syrup” but rest assured – your body doesn’t know the difference. Consuming excess sugar, especially first thing in the morning, predisposes us to imbalances in blood sugar, weight gain, anxiety and more cravings for sugar later in the day. Long term it also sets the stage for diabetes and systemic inflammation.
Instead, make a big batch of steel cut oats and reheat it in the mornings. Steel cut oats are the least processed form of oats so won’t cause a spike in blood sugar and the fiber will help keep you full. Top it with chia seeds, hemp hearts, ground flax seeds, cinnamon and your favourite nuts to provide delicious flavour, protein and healthy fats – guaranteed to keep you full until lunch.

Eat vegetables, not processed carbohydrates 
Consuming lots of pasta, breads and rice provides few nutrients and unfortunately tend to disrupt our blood sugar levels, and set the stage for weight gain and fatigue. There are many ways to get those carbs from veggies instead!
Replace rice with cauliflower rice – simply chop up cauliflower into small pieces and roast in the oven with olive oil and seasoning of your choice.
Instead of pasta, experiment with using spaghetti squash.
Hamburger buns can be replaced by portabella mushrooms for a delicious burger. Get creative! You’ll be surprised at how easy it might be and fun for the whole family.

Drink green tea, not coffee 
Don’t hate me for this one, but I welcome you to give it a try. We live in a coffee-addicted world, where we don’t think twice before having another cup of coffee. However, depending on your metabolism, even drinking coffee in the morning can disrupt your sleep that night. Coffee also exacerbates anxiety, can cause digestive upset and revs up your stress hormones.
Green tea still contains some caffeine but also loads of antioxidants and an amino acid called L-theanine, which helps promote calming brain waves,  focus and concentration.

Health Hacks: Beating the common cold

Dr. Erica Kubanek, ND

‘Tis the season. The season for stuffy noses, achy fatigue and coughing in your elbow (not on your neighbor). Its also the season for cold and flu remedies to fly off the shelf as we seek relief from bothersome symptoms. Do you wait for the cold to catch you? Do you run to buy Vitamin C or Echinacea? What else can you do for prevention?
Here are some simple yet effective health hacks for beating the seasonal illnesses. Each of these can be used as needed or on a daily basis incorporated into your wellness routine. Are you brave enough to try out these classic naturopathic cures?

MAGIC SOCKS
I learned early on in my practice not to call these ‘cold and wet socks’. No one likes cold and wet socks… but Magic socks?! Way better.

What you need
Short cotton socks, big wool socks, cold water, a freezer, warm feet, warm bed

How to execute
Wet the cotton socks. Wring out as much water as possible and stick them in the freezer. In about 10 minutes slip the cotton socks on then put the wool ones on top. Go straight to bed. Immediately your feet will be cool but soon after will become quite hot. As you sleep the socks will dry while the wool ones wick away the moisture. You may wake in the middle of the night and kick them off once they are dry.

What are Magic Socks good for?
Warming up an overall cold constitution. Draining congestion from sinuses. Preventing and recovering from the common cold, bronchitis and the flu. Calming a cough, especially at night.

CONSTITUTIONAL HYDROTHERAPY
Also known as a cold shower. Tough at first but you’ll get used to it. I promise!

What you need
Shower, cold water, dry towels.

How to execute
Take a warm shower. End your shower on a cold blast. Start as cold as you can make it for a few seconds. Once you have tried it a few times increase the length of the cold blast up to 1 minute. You will leave the shower feeling a rush of warmth as your body reacts to the shock. If you don’t feel that rush then vigorously dry yourself off with a towel.

What is it good for?
Waking up from a rest. Overcoming that run-down feeling. Improving skin texture and tone.

DRY SKIN BRUSHING
This one is great for the skin.

What you need
Dry body, natural fibre bristle brush, a shower

How to execute
Before hopping into the shower for your constitutional hydrotherapy, gently brush your skin in short strokes toward your heart. Start on your hands and feet and move toward your shoulders and hips. On your abdomen and torso continue using short gentle strokes until you have covered your whole body. This shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes.

What is it good for?
Any skin condition (don’t brush directly over the problem area). Increasing your vitality. Preventing allergies and catching the cold.
Don’t believe me? You’re not the only I’ve had to convince. Give these a try and you’ll be amazed at the results. You too will become a believer!

Kick Your Sugar Cravings

By Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld ND

Sugar addiction is very real, and with sugar being added to most food products, it is becoming nearly impossible to avoid. The numbers are alarming – on average Canadians consume 110g of sugar per person each day, and children aged 1-3 derive 27% of their calories from sugar! (Statistics Canada).  Sugar and high glycemic foods trigger your brains pleasure centre, which makes you feel good and drive you to seek more of that feeling.

It’s not news that sugar consumption causes obesity and is linked to most chronic health conditions, so what can you do to stop the vicious cycle and break the addiction?

Add in Real Food

Processed foods, simple carbohydrates and sweets will all spike your blood sugar, giving you an immediate boost of energy. But just a short while later, your blood sugar crashes, leaving you feeling tired, lethargic and foggy. In order to get your blood sugar back up, and quickly, our body starts to crave sugar and carbs. So how do we break this cycle?  Focus on eating protein, healthy fats and fiber at every meal and snack. This will stabilize your blood sugar, and keep you feeling full for longer.

  • Protein: fish, eggs, lean meat, quinoa, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds
  • Healthy fats: fish, olive oil, coconut oil, flax, avocado, nuts and seeds
  • Complex carbohydrates: root vegetables, quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, millet

 Cold Turkey

To break the vicious cycle of sugar addiction and retrain your taste buds, eliminate all forms of processed sugar from your diet for 3-4 weeks. Soon fruits and vegetables will begin to taste sweet, and your sugary morning cereal will taste much too sweet. It’s important that you start reading food labels so you can recognize “sugar” in all its various forms. One of the easiest ways to identify sugar on a food label is by seeing the -ose suffix. When you find words that end in -ose, there’s a good chance it is sugar.

Sugars ending in -ose include: Sucrose, Maltose, Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Galactose, Lactose, High fructose corn syrup, Glucose solids. There are many others as well, and don’t be fooled by “organic” sugar or cane syrup – they are all processed in the body the same way.

 Get 7-8 hours of Sleep

Lack of sleep increases cravings for sugar, because it will provide an instant energy boost when you are feeling tired. The hours you get before midnight are the most restorative, so try to go to bed early for increased benefits. Adequate sleep also helps to manage the stress response, which is important because our stress hormones can wreak havoc on blood sugar.

 Address your Stress

During stressful times, you are more likely to reach for processed and sweet foods, as these foods trigger our pleasure centres in the brain and provide an often much needed distraction. Chronic stress also causes elevations in cortisol, which increases our blood sugar levels. Stress reducing activities include exercise, yoga, meditation, or even just taking a few deep breaths when you are feeling overwhelmed.

 Sugar busting supplements

There are several safe and natural supplements that will help to curb your sugar cravings. Minerals like chromium and magnesium can have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels and cravings. Supplementing with certain strains of beneficial bacteria can trigger our reward circuitry in the brain, and decrease our reliance on sweets for pleasure. Supplementing with glutamine, an amino acid and the primary fuel source for intestinal cells, can halt sugar cravings dramatically.  Lastly, herbs that help to lower cortisol levels such as relora and rhodiola can also have beneficial effects on sugar cravings. Every person is different and some supplements will interact with medications, so make sure you consult your Naturopathic Doctor before taking any supplements

Healthy Halloween Recipes

Pumpkins are not just for decorating! Pumpkins are high in antioxidants, boosting your vision, skin health and immune system. They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber and help to lower cholesterol levels and aid in weight loss.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Try this delicious smoothie to ramp up your antioxidant intake, and enjoy a sweet treat with less sugar and fewer calories!

Blend ingredients in your blender:

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (Not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 cup almond milk, or coconut milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • Honey to taste (about 1tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

roasted-pumpkin-seeds-copy

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Once you have finished carving your pumpkin, keep your seeds to make a tasty snack! Pumpkin seeds are especially high in zinc, which naturally boosts your immune system, and zinc is also really important for men’s health and testosterone levels.

  1. Clean the pumpkin seeds. To separate the seeds and the pumpkin guts, add it all to a big bowl of water, and separate with your hands.
  2. Boil pumpkin seeds for 10 minutes in salt water. Add seeds to a pot of water with 1tsp salt, allow to boil and then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. This process will increase the digestibility of the seeds, and make them more crispy. If you are short on time, or patience, this step is definitely optional.
  3. Drain the seeds and pat dry. Spread on a baking sheet.
  4. Add olive oil – amount depends on how many seeds you have, but 1tsp should be plenty. Massage the seeds and coat with oil.
  5. Sprinkle with salt and spread the seeds out as much as possible
  6. Roast seeds at 325F for 10 minutes, remove from oven and stir. Roast for another 8-10 minutes, but they will have to be watched closely to ensure they don’t burn.
  7. During the last 5 minutes in the oven, remove a few seeds to make sure they are not burning. To check: crack them open – you don’t want them to be brown. The inner seed should only have a golden tinge when they are perfectly done.
  8. Let cool and enjoy! You can have them as a snack on their own, or add them to your salads!

Questions about this article? Email Dr. Joanna at [email protected]

More of Dr. Joanna’s healthy recipes available here!

Why Should I See A Naturopathic Doctor?

– by Dr Joanna Rosenfeld, ND

I get asked this question a lot, and I have rarely given the same answer twice.

This is both a benefit, and a difficulty, with Naturopathic Medicine. Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) have such a large scope of training in a variety of modalities, that it is hard to give a succinct answer to this question.

FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS A NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR?
The easiest place to start is to describe what it takes to become an ND. Naturopathic Doctors have completed a Bachelor’s degree, with pre-requisites in basic science courses, and then finished 4 years of Naturopathic College, including 1 year of residency and 2 sets of board exams. Passing these board exams allows us to use our modalities in practice: nutrition, acupuncture, herbal medicine, physical medicine, hydrotherapy and homeopathy. We also learn diagnostic skills, how to interpret lab results, and when to refer out for a more emergent, or serious conditions. In British Columbia, an additional set of exams allows us to prescribe pharmaceuticals.

Naturopathic Doctors have a unique philosophy regarding healthcare. We are focused on treating the root cause of disease when possible, and not only masking the symptoms. Although sometimes it is important to treat the symptoms, such as pain, we do so while at the same time trying to understand the reason the pain exists in the first place. For example, people with painful periods often take painkillers to help manage their cramps. As NDs, we explore why the cramps are there in the first place? What are your hormone levels? How could your diet be contributing to the pain? How could stress or lifestyle be a factor in your cramps? As part of this exploration, we address the whole person – both mental and physical aspects of their health.

Whac a mole

6 (OF MANY) REASONS TO SEE AN ND:

1. You aren’t feeling your best, and nobody can tell you why.

Maybe you are feeling run down, and more tired than usual. You’ve been gaining weight and can’t seem to lose it. Or maybe you keep getting sick and it’s taking you a long time to recover. Or you get bloated seemingly randomly throughout the day or month. These are symptoms that people tend to live with and eventually start thinking that they are normal. Symptomatic treatments may have helped initially, but now you just don’t know where to go. This is where a Naturopath will work with you by taking a thorough history, performing physical exams and ordering lab tests, to help tie your symptoms together and find a root cause.

2. You have a chronic condition and have been told there is no treatment available

As NDs, we often see patients after they have been struggling with a health issue for a long time, and been told there is no treatment or cure available. Common examples include irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, eczema, psoriasis, acne, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune diseases. Although there may be no cure available for some of these conditions, NDs can help to manage chronic conditions by balancing the immune system, decreasing inflammation, using specific herbal treatments and prescribing therapeutic diets.

3. You are experiencing side effects from medications

Pharmaceutical medications can be very effective for managing certain conditions, but often come with side effects. Your ND can tell you which nutrients or vitamins are depleted by your medication, and give you safe options for managing side effects. In some cases, your ND can help you replace medication with effective natural alternatives, with fewer side effects.

4. You are in pain

A common reason for chronic medication use is chronic pain. However, chronic use of pain medication is associated with liver and digestive problems. Chronic pain, especially joint pain, can be associated with specific foods you are eating in your diet, being overweight, or generalized inflammation in the body. Naturopathic Doctors can help identify the cause of your pain and help to minimize it through the use of acupuncture, diet, herbs and other treatment options.

5. You would like a more integrative health care plan

Naturopathic Doctors like to work as one part of your health care team, and that is why you will often see NDs working in multi-disciplinary clinics. We aim to communicate our evidence-based approach with your other health care providers and doctors to ensure you are receiving a comprehensive and safe treatment plan. Although generally safe, supplements can still interact with medications and an ND is an expert in prescribing the right supplements in the right form and at the right dose for you.

6. You would like a “health coach” and want to learn more about preventative medicine for you and your family

Naturopathic Doctors are trained in health. Symptoms are your body’s way of communicating that certain systems within your body need some attention, and a Naturopathic Doctor can help get you back to optimal health and symptom-free living. By managing symptoms when they first occur, and optimizing your diet, body weight and lifestyle, you can prevent a variety of health conditions and your ND can show you where to start!

Questions about this article? Contact [email protected]

The Perfect Diet?

-by Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld, ND

There are so many diets out there – vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, paleo, primal, Mediterranean – the list goes on. But which one is the best? Your best friend swears that the paleo diet changed her life – she lost 50 pounds and her skin cleared up, but when you try it – nothing! Well that’s because diets and food choices need to be individualized! Integrated nutrition is all about learning to be more connected with what you eat, and how your body processes food.

eat right

Following a strict diet that you have read in a book may seem easy at first, but I can guarantee it’s not going to be the perfect diet for you. In order to understand how to eat, you have to first learn to listen to what your body is telling you and feed it nutritious foods. These 7 principles lay the foundation of the “perfect diet”

1. Drink More Water
Drink 2 cups of water first thing in the morning when you wake up. This will help to re-hydrate the body and set you on a good track for drinking water throughout the rest of the day. You can try adding freshly squeezed lemon juice, or sliced ginger to warm water, if you typically need some warming up in the morning.

Signs that you need more water include fatigue, sluggish digestion, headaches and frequent food cravings, or even just feeling thirsty!

2. Make your Own Meals
It is virtually impossible to eat well if you are relying on restaurants or take-out food to eat well. There is a lot of added sugar, salt and fat to make the food taste delicious, and portion sizes are often too large. Some of the most nutritious food is easiest to make, such as vegetables, fish and whole grains. You can even make your favourite “take-out” foods at home – swap the Macdonald hamburger and french fries for a homemade burger and roasted yams

3. Experiment with Whole Grains
Carbohydrates have been demonized, but there is a lot of benefit in eating healthy whole grains as part of a balanced diet. Whole grains provide energy, satiety, and a high source of fiber. This doesn’t include white bread or muffins, but start using quinoa, amaranth, and millet. If you have trouble digesting grains, try soaking them overnight in water – this makes the grains easier to digest and also neutralizes phytic acid , which is a component of grains that can block the absorption of other nutrients. How to cook different grains.

4. Include Naturally Sweet Vegetables
Craving sweets is natural, so try including healthy sweet foods instead of turning to preocessed sugar. Naturally sweet foods also contain beneficial nutrients and fiber to help balance your blood sugar. Certain foods become very sweet when cooked, and eating these foods will reduce your cravings for sweets! Carrots, onions, beets, winter squash and sweet potatoes are all great options.

5. Increase Leafy Greens!
Leafy greens are high in vitamins and minerals, fiber, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. They really are the super-hero food, and there are so many delicious ways to consume them. Try sauteing them, making a kale salad, or using a collard green leaf as a “bun” in your sandwich. Greens can also be easily added to your morning smoothie! Start experimenting by rotating your greens: bok choy, napa cabbage, kale, collards, watercress, mustard greens, broccoli rabe and dandelion are all great options. Here are some ideas on how to cook, and store, your leafy greens!

6. Include Protein
Protein, and it’s building blocks amino acids, are important for so many functions in the body. Protein is required for enzymes and hormone synthesis, as well as building muscle mass (thereby increasing our metabolism) and developing strong hair and nails. Protein also helps to stabilize blood sugar, reducing cravings and keeping us feel full for longer. Good sources of protein include fish, organic poultry, grass fed meats, lentils and eggs. Aim for a piece of protein the size of your hand, with the rest of your plate being colourful veggies and high quality fats.

7. Don’t Fear Fats
We are thankfully moving away from low fat diets, but people are still hesitant to include fats and oils in their diets. Fats are essential for increasing our feeling of satiety after a meal, improving our absorption of many fat-soluble nutrients and producing healthy hormones. Modern diets have an over-abundance of pro-inflammatory fats (omega 6) and low levels of anti-inflammatory fats (omega 3). Our cell membrane is composed of fat, so including anti-inflammatory fats in our diet, will help to reduce inflammation systemically. If you are cooking with oils, use ones with a high smoke point such as coconut oil, avocado oil or grapeseed oil. Olive oil and flaxseed oil should only be consumed cold, as they burn at a lower temperature. Other good sources of fat include nuts and seeds, fish (and fish oil), hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax and avocado.

Choose one of these principles to include next week. If you are able to stick with it, then try adding another. Make small, sustainable, changes and soon you will see drastic changes in your diet and your health!

Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about your specific symptoms to individualize the best nutrition plan for you.

Questions about this article? Contact [email protected]